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Rethinking Learning Experiences: From MOOCs to In-Person Classes

Brianna Bannach 00:19
Hello! Welcome, we're gonna get started in a couple minutes. So to settle in, as one of our colleagues, Bob would say, make sure you find your seat, don't spill your drink. Yeah. While we're waiting for everyone to join us, if you'd like to introduce yourselves in the chat, I think it's always great to get to know where everyone's from what you're up to. I'm currently calling in from outside of Baltimore. So it's been pretty rainy in the past couple days a little gloomy. So if anyone's had some better weather, maybe on the West Coast, feel free to brag in the chat. I hope anyone calling in from the south is doing okay in the wake of the storm. If you are calling from there, thank you for calling in during this hard time. We appreciate you taking the time to be here. All right, a couple more seconds, and then we'll dive on in. I don't want to delay the excitement too long. All right, let's get started. Thank you all for joining us. Today's webinar is called rethinking learning experiences, from MOOCs to in person classes. And we're joined by the lovely Dr. Lisa Finkelstein, who is a professor of Industrial Organization Psychology from NIU. And then, of course, Brian Verdine, who is the VP of academic product engagement at Yellowdig. And I will be your host today, and I am the Marketing Team Lead here at Yellowdig. Bryan and Lisa, would you like to elaborate on your introductions a little bit?

Lisa Finkelstein 02:27
Sure. Hi, everybody! I'm Dr. Lisa Finkelstein, I've been at NIU for 26 and a half years now it has gone by so fast, I can hardly believe I'm even saying those words. This is the only job I've ever had. I got there right after I got my PhD at Tulane University, and I teach in in psychology. I teach undergraduate and graduate level. And I'm going to be talking today about two different kinds of undergraduate classes that I use Yellowdig with and I love teaching.

Brian Verdine 02:57
Awesome. Hi, everyone. I'm Brian Verdine, I'm our VP of Academic Product Engagement at Yellowdig. What that means is I help support instructors and students that are using the platform. And I also work quite a bit on the product. My background is also in psychology and some education with a PhD from Vanderbilt, and they did a postdoc at University of Delaware before I started getting into edtech. I've been here at Yellowdig for about four years now, and have done a lot of the research on the platform. So I'll be sharing some of that information and some of the cool use cases that I've seen across the years. Thanks for joining.

Brianna Bannach 03:40
Great! Thank you both. I love when Brian shares that he also went to University of Delaware because that is where I graduated from a couple of years ago. So we're representing strong today. Awesome. So let's dive in with rethinking learning experiences. So Dr. Finkelstein what need calm,

Lisa Finkelstein 03:58
Call me Lisa, please, I won't make you stumble on that. And I'm happy to have you call me.

Brianna Bannach 04:06
What needs to be seen from your students that have prompted you to rethink the learning experience.

Lisa Finkelstein 04:11
So I think this is probably going to resonate with a lot of people. But over the past couple years, it seems like it became really crystal clear that students really needed to have more of a sense of community at school and more of a sense of connection with other students. And so it seems like it had been getting a little bit less natural for that to be happening then of course the pandemic had some are all online and nobody knew really how to handle that or how to kind of do school anymore. I didn't come from a background of online teaching at all, so I had never done it before the pandemic and I just kept recognizing and even now that we're we're kind of back ish from from that, that students still kind of seem like they're not as prepared or don't quite know how to connect with class. needs this much. And a lot of people feel really kind of isolated and alone and not sure how to how to make friends. And so I feel like, like Yellowdig, it has been a really, really great platform for allowing them to do that in a way that I can't imagine they would have been able to do before. So I just really the sense of community, I feel like I can facilitate that in a way that I haven't been able to, and it's really seemed to be working out really well.

Brianna Bannach 05:31
That's great to hear. I'd love to hear if there are any other aspects of the learning experience that you had to rethink for students or dive a little deeper into your Yellowdig. If that was the main change that you made?

Lisa Finkelstein 05:42
Yeah, so I think that, um, well, let me see. So there's two classes that I use Yellowdig with. And I think for both classes, the sense of community was important to me. And so during the pandemic, they were both online, since the pandemic, one class came back to being in person, the other one was designed over the pandemic was a brand new class for us. And I'll talk a little bit about that later, if you want that will always be online and as a huge class. So they're kind of different reasons for doing that. But I feel like the coming back, they seemed a little bit like they needed a little bit more guidance and structure. So part of that is guidance and structured, to network with each other. But part of that is just guidance and structure in general. So I feel like I'm being a little bit more explicit about policies, try trying to be flexible within the structure, if that makes any sense. So trying to strike that balance between giving a structure and having some expectations that are sufficiently high, but having a little bit more leeway and how they get there. I think those are the other things that have really come to light since the pandemic for me.

Brianna Bannach 06:54
That makes a lot of sense. And you talk to to the point of community being something that students were struggling with, can you elaborate on why you think it's important as an instructor to facilitate these student interactions beyond course content?

Lisa Finkelstein 07:08
Yeah. So um, what I discovered so they once they, once you kind of get them going, it's like a little nudge to get people to talk to each other. And I think Yellowdig provides that nudge with the gamification aspects of there are points involved in in talking to each other, which is one of the things I love about Yellowdig is the two main things I love is that you know that the look of it is like social media and the points involved to gamify everything. And I think it's also easy to use for wins once people get going at first, some people are like, wait, what do I do here, but once they once they learn how to do it, that really helps a lot. So giving them the nudge with the opportunity to earn points, but not making those points contingent on just class material. Having some of it contingent on class material for me was important. And I know Brianna, we've talked about this a little bit before that you guys like and I haven't spoken to Brian about this before you guys like to kind of let them figure out what they want to talk about related to the class, I like to give a little bit of structure with that for just a certain number of points that they earn. So I give some choices and some prompts. I tried to keep them a little bit broad, but they're about the content, but I have my students need to learn, earn 1000 points every week to you know, be have perfect Yellowdig score at the end, it's worth 10% of their grade at the end. But only 300 points are like the post about school kind of thing. And the rest of it is whatever they want to talk about it. And I did realize I needed to give some ideas and structure for that. So I have categories or topics statements, I think they're called topics, right with a little label about movies and TV shows and podcasts and pets are the best. So I asked him if there's one thing you all learn from me today have a category called pets, and encourage them to post pictures of all of their pets that is absolutely such a winner right at the beginning they start you know, because nobody can look at like the cute little puppy picture and not just like want to respond to that. And so it just like greases the wheels and gets people going. So I just started these different categories. And then I like let them take it from there, they can start new categories and just watching them just kind of come alive and connect with each other is so amazing. And I feel like that. If they didn't have that knowledge in that direction, they're probably going to feel a little awkward about doing that at first but once they get going, they really really seem to enjoy it a lot and really make that connection. It's so great to see.

Brian Verdine 09:47
Ya, Lisa. I mean, I think we talk a lot about trying to remove some of the structure, at least especially for people that are sort of thinking of it. The replace kind of discussion board. Let's to remove as much of the structure as you can, so that students have a little bit of agency. And I think you're, you're, you're really talking about the right way. It's, it's more striking a balance, right? It's, it's finding ways that students are able to have a little bit of fun. And, you know, and enjoy being in the space that'll get them back there more often to them actually do the work. I think like, you know, one thing I always talk about is, you know, if you get on a zoom call, for a meeting for work, you usually spend five minutes at the beginning and sometimes five minutes of empty or 10 minutes, I just talking to colleagues. And if that can happen inside of a Yellowdig community as well, it can improve the results overall, for the stuff you really need them to do as far as you know.

Brianna Bannach 10:53
Yeah, I know, my favorite meetings are ones where we we talk about something random at the beginning, and then you just feel so much more comfortable with the people that you're talking with. And you're willing to go a little bit deeper and in what you were already going to talk about, for the rest of the meeting. So I feel like that translates really well, to Yellowdig. I see we have a question in the q&a that I think it makes sense to ask now. So it's from Caroline, and it says, Why does Why do you think that the sense of community is important in the context of your courses? And I think the biggest part of the question is, what indicators made you think that there was not a strong sense of community before you adopted Yellowdig?

Lisa Finkelstein 11:32
So that's a great question. A great two part question. And so I think that observation a little bit in terms of classes, kind of even just before we went online, and then when we went online, at first, kind of suddenly, and so I didn't have anything like Yellowdig, I didn't know what I was doing. Just like, you know, we had two weeks to be like, go online and teach your class. So there was none of that. And, and people, just the students, the way that they were talking to me and communicating the ones who were in email, and I was trying to like kind of contact everybody make sure that they were okay, try to figure out if I was losing people a little bit. And they just a lot of them just felt so disconnected in the world. And so that made me think that I wanted to knowing that we're going to stay online with that class that I wanted to incorporate something that would allow them to talk to each other and make them feel a little bit less isolated and made them feel like somebody was in this with them, like needing to do this. The school thing with them in this particular class for this class I'm talking about as an upper level, undergraduate laboratory class. So it's a four credit class, it's kind of hard, like it's it's research methods applied to industrial organizational psychology and, and there's a lab section that a TA teaches, and usually they're together in a room, and they're creating a study and stuff like that. And that just was like, hard for them to communicate in, online, all of that stuff. So giving them this space that they could go where they could kind of get to know each other a little bit made it a little bit easier for them to talk to each other like in that in those lab sections, they started to write you know, they mostly talked on the chat, but they would recognize each other's names. And I got feedback from students that they really, they got to know people in a way they never did. And they started a group chat, like outside of Yellowdig, where they had a study group that they were studying together, and some of them in a post class survey, I asked questions about this, how they liked it, should I keep Yellowdig when we went back to in person, and far and away most people said yes, because that there's some of them were like, that was the best part of this class. And I felt like I met a lot of people, and I probably wouldn't have met them otherwise. And I don't know about you guys, but sometimes, like in the classroom, they just come into the class. And they're like, staring at their phone until class starts. And then at the end, they just sleep, right? So this was allowing them like, nudging them to break the ice a little with each other. And I feel like it that just needed to get started. And so I felt like I was in a position where I could do that. And that was something that was important to me to just make them help them feel a little bit more connected, just for the sense of being connected, but like, because that's good for humanity. And that's important to me, but also in the context of my class and I could do something to help so I wanted to but in the context of my class, I think it helps them communicate a little bit better when they needed to about the research study. They were trying to design online and and so we've kept it since then. In that class, so it was really it was feedback. It was observation at first that made me want to try it out. And the reason I knew about Yellowdig I should probably clarify that so I that summer between so this summer I get all mine I don't even know what year it is. 2020 I guess this is the when when the pandemic happened, I always want to say 2020. After had been on line for that for that half a semester where we were just kind of fumbling along, I took a course, that was offered by our Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning that was our former faculty development center. I hope some of them are on the call, because I told them about this and they are fantastic. They absolutely deserve that upgraded name, because they were very innovative and in terms of solving problems, and were so helpful to us that summer. And so I took a course with them, where they put us in the role of a student taking an online course right, so I had never taken an online course hadn't taught one except for that one I stumbled through. And one of the things that they instituted was Yellowdig, for us that we needed to earn the points and and so we got to be inside that. And it was so much fun. So I was completely alone during the pandemic. This is like personal information, my partner where I'm long distance, so my partner doesn't live with me, I don't have children, I was in this house by myself, um, social media in general was helping me just get through the days because I knew I had friends out there and had support. But this was like I was communicating with faculty in all different areas of the university that I didn't really know. And we started talking about this stuff, when we're going through, it was so helpful to me. So recognizing that and we didn't just talk about the class and what we were going through, we also got to know each other a little bit. And so that was really fun. So I wanted to incorporate that. And that's how I decided to do it. So I kind of witnessed it from the inside and saw that it can be fun. And I should also clarify that I am a member of my own Yellowdig community who earns all her points, every single week. So I am in there, I check Facebook, I check Instagram, and I check ello deck every day, and I get in there and I start communicating. And it's just as much fun for me. And it also allows me to get in their heads in a way that I never did before in the classroom. Like I'm, I'm inside every one of their brains, and at least in terms of what they're communicating about the class and how they talk to each other. The kinds of things that are important to them what they worry about, I've gotten really good recommendations for TV shows and podcasts and new music from my playlist. So this has been something that's really helped me feel connected to the students as well as the students connected to each other. I hope that answered the question. I kind of rambled a little bit.

Brian Verdine 17:21
I think that's really interesting. And we do you hear a lot of instructors talk about how they enjoy teaching more because of Yellowdig. And I definitely love to hear that, especially with that with the small amount of teaching I've done compared to you. But I remember sort of feeling disconnected from a lot of my students, even though I was at the time on a physical campus, there's there's just oftentimes not enough time in a course, to actually connect with a lot of students or, you know, the students that maybe most needed that would most benefit from those connections are least likely to actually seek them out. And I think what we see on a lot of college campuses is those students that are struggling, end up being the ones that are also having trouble connecting socially and having a space designed into a course, for that specific purpose, I think does help grease the wheels, especially for those for those students that might otherwise not kind of proactively reach out.

Lisa Finkelstein 18:21
Yeah. Absolutely

Brianna Bannach 18:25
Yeah. You said so much important information. I wanted to dig a little deeper into how you said you earn, your points. So what how do you interact? What is what is your typical interaction like?

Lisa Finkelstein 18:35
Yeah, so I get on there. And you know, another question that might come up. I don't know if it has come up in the chat, but like, just kind of, I've talked to other people about doing Yellowdig. And they get a little nervous like that. It's just going to be kind of the Wild West and not really knowing what people are going to talk about, are people going to do anything that's gonna be offensive, or whatever. So I've always been like, Well, I'm gonna be in there. And I'm monitoring and I know that they know that But literally, not one thing has ever been said, and I'm knocking on wood. So it doesn't happen later today. The people are so kind to each other and so nice. But so so I'm in there, kind of keeping an eye on stuff I also want I mostly respond in comments to people so you know, comments, get fewer points than your actual posts. So I will create posts once in a while, usually not on the topic, I'll respond to their comments on the topic, I try to give very positive feedback or encouraging feedback. If somebody's like off the mark. I just tried to like say, oh, but what about this, you know, in terms of getting them to think about things the way I had originally intended, but always try to be supportive of them. And you know, they get points if somebody comments on there. So I like to look for ones that maybe nobody had commented on yet and get in there and so that people will feel included. So a lot of times that's what I'm doing in there. And then you know, I start these other topics around just you know, like I said, like the pets and the music and All kinds of stuff. So this semester, I have. So the other class that I teach this with is all online asynchronous. I had never taught a synchronous before this new class that started last fall. So it is a 300 person class, I also had never taught more than 50 people that have time before. So that was insane to me that 300 people were going to be in this one class and, and the asynchronous part was really, really hard for me, because I'm so used to like communicating back and forth. So my online stuff before I had been like, I was talking to them. And they usually didn't show their camera, but they were really active, I'd be like in the chat telling me that it's everybody come on, and I'd like say their names as they came in the room and like, ask them about Give me your emoji of the day, like I tried to be very engaged with them online. And now it was just like, I was just, here's all the videos, by like, I didn't know how I was going to know what was going on with them at all. And so this is the semester after I started using Yellowdig. For the other course I mentioned before, so I'm like, definitely have to have Yellowdig as part of this class. And it's the only way I have communication with them. So unless they come to office hours, or they email me and so if I didn't have that I would have no idea what was going on. And so it allows me so I go in there so I can kind of see what they're thinking about. See if they're asking questions about stuff, see if they're kind of getting it see what they like. So sometimes I asked questions in the prompts to kind of see what was most how like, which video did you find the most helpful, and how are you going to use it kind of thing. So it really allows me to see stuff coming back. So I go in there to just kind of take a pulse on the class and figure out what's, what's working and what they're talking about. But then I do also go in there just because it's really fun. And I learn a lot about what students think about and I get opinions from them, I've learned about like new hiking trails in New York Campus that I didn't know about. So I get so much information that's so useful to me, but it's really just allows me to feel like I like I'm actually their professor, and I'm interacting with them in that way. And so that's really how I like to use it the most,

Brian Verdine 22:08
You mentioned a number of strategies that I think are really supported by the data that we have. So number one, we find that students participate a lot more in their communities, and everybody sort of enjoys the outcomes. More, when instructors are spending more of their time commenting, and specifically doing the things that you're saying, which are like, build on the conversation, ask a good question that will extend it, you know, share an additional resource that builds on an idea that they were already talking about. A really important reason that interacting that way is really effective is because you can't take that, for lack of a better way of saying you can't just create a post at the beginning of a semester, throw it in there and then leave, you're actually acknowledging their thought process. And they really respond to that from everything that I've seen in our platform. So I think like, some of the things that you're talking about are definitely the kinds of strategies that are supported by our data.

Lisa Finkelstein 23:13
Yeah, that's so good to hear. And I also feel like they just get more comfortable with me that way. So, you know, I kind of set the tone that, um, you know, I expect, you know, in my syllabus, and I expect, you know, professional, I teach them how to send professional emails and that kind of thing, I found a blog post that is called something like how to email your professor without being annoying AF, which they get a kick out of. And so they learn how to send a proper email. And so we communicate very properly that way. But on Yellowdig, like, we can communicate very casually, like, I don't want anybody to say anything offensive, but we can just talk like they normally would speak right. And I want to encourage them to see me as a human and not just as this like authority figure. And so I talked to them the way I would talk to my friends and and I tried to just like, you know, tell them what I'm doing and share some information about like, Oh, I'm watching this show, or like, oh, I can't watch scary movies. That is true, because they'll recommend something like, oh, you should watch this right now. Everybody's talking about Halloween. It's scary movies. I'm like, No, I can't I'm too scared. They're like, Oh, do you think this one would be okay for Dr. Finkelstein? I don't know. That one's kind of scary. Oh, but what about this one? And so they'll all like try to find a movie for me. And they'll get to in that. So it's like, it's heartwarming, and it's really fun. And they just, when I do comments on their posts, they often will comment back, like, if I say oh, yeah, I think that way to like that so affirming to them, and then they'll be like, wow, you know, and then they'll add to it or they'll ask me a question and like that just never has happened. In the course of like, you know, standing in front of a classroom when done before once in a while conversations in my office will be like that or like before or after class, but I just feel like I'm getting to a lot more people that like you said before might be the ones that Can't don't feel comfortable coming to office hours or don't feel comfortable talking in class. So there's everybody I'm getting in their heads. Whereas in classrooms that even in those really interactive classes that you love, where people are talking, it's really not everybody, it's like that handful of extroverted people that are, are really the ones that are leading all of that. And so this allows me to kind of hear from everybody and and those people, the quieter ones and the noisier ones, they actually be able to interact in a platform that they're comfortable with.

Brianna Bannach 25:34
I love that I feel like what you're saying is almost that no matter what size the classes, you can make it feel like it's that small, 510 Person class where you actually get to know everyone and have those real interactions.

Lisa Finkelstein 25:44
Yeah, so with this 300 person class, I broke it down into groups, which you can do in Blackboard. So I have four groups. But I'm in all the groups and my I have three TAs, I have an two undergrad TAs that have taken my class before and that are like, supervised by a graduate ca. And so we all they were all assigned a particular group to go in and make sure everybody has comments and stuff. So they're engaging a lot too. And that's been fun. It's the first time we've had undergrad TAS like in our department ever and, and they've taken the class. So they're really engaging with the students, which is great. And but I tried to respond in the whole community of 300 people. So I don't necessarily get to everybody, but I try to make sure I can I can get to know people, but you see people's names again, you see people talking to each other, you know, and really getting to know each other. And so I think even you know, breaking it down leads to about 75 people in a group but they really seem to start to get to know each other and I see the same kind of people responding to things. That seems like they're they're able to build kind of a connection out way. That's great.

Brianna Bannach 26:48
Gotcha. I think now is actually the perfect transition. We were supposed to have someone from Embry Riddle Aeronautics University joining us who ran a MOOC this year. Unfortunately, she wasn't able to join us. But Brian, I would love if you shared a little bit of insights around that type of community larger communities, and dive into that.

Brian Verdine 27:09
Yeah, so I work with her on some of the initial setup of of that, you know, of that course. And, you know, we often get questions about sort of, like, how big of a community can you have, and Yellowdig. And, Lisa, having an experience with a fairly large community, I certainly don't want to speak out of turn. But one of the things that we've generally seen is that from our data, there doesn't seem to be that ideal of a community size. So in large communities, students still tend to participate just as much. And most of the metrics really look quite similar. I think, what shifts oftentimes is sort of what the instructor has to think their role is in the community, which is usually a slightly smaller role, where the students are kind of running with the, you know, running with the situation a little bit more, just because you're outnumbered. Right? And strategies, like, undergraduate TAs are a great one, you know, we see people, involving undergrads in various different Yellowdig communities, other students respond to that the students that are doing a tremble and enjoy it. So that's a that's a sort of great strategy to kind of increase the number of people that can be helping. But we've really found that generally doesn't change student behavior that much. And, and, you know, a quick reason why we think that that might be happening is because of the way the feed works. So in yellow day, if somebody posts a new conversation to start a new conversation, it goes in at the top. And then if anybody comments on that conversation, it'll pop back to the top. So the things that are in the community that students are seeing first, when they arrive, there are the newest, most active conversations. And ultimately, what that means is that students always have just a couple of posts to interact with, you know, we're they can scroll as far as they want, but they have, they have some options of posts they can interact with. And so they scroll through a few things, they read some stuff, they find something interesting they want to participate in, and then they do it. And the class size doesn't really matter, as long as that feed is kind of operating that way. So that's one reason that we think that that's happening. But here's a little bit of data from a large state university, we analyzed data from almost 100 of their classes, to look at how community size impacted outcomes, and the answer is very little and maybe if anything, larger communities are doing a little bit better. I think that pattern is actually a little bit because if you get Tiny, the communities might just not generate enough organic activity to get students to come back every day or a couple times a week, right? So, so some of that might just be related to the small communities. And in those situations, where we usually recommend is lacking, you know, the instructor do a few more active things to kind of structure the situation, we're bringing some additional, you know, assignments in reality, and, you know, have them participate that way. But, you know, this is generally our data observations and observations around large classes and at Embry Riddle, you know, they've been running this course now for, I want to, say, two years, you know, Rihanna. But they've been seeing that they can execute this with a with a relatively large class. And I forgotten exactly how many people were in that I think the initial one was 300. I don't know if any larger over time, but similar, I think, in size to Lisa, what you were, what you were doing. I think, you know, for me, the way that I think about a lot of those situations is, whenever you have a class that size, there's maybe not, there's not easy answers to how you can actually engage that many students. And I think the biggest shift is, and maybe you can confirm this, or correct me, Lisa has the biggest shift, I think, is kind of just in how you have to approach the situation, and to think of strategies that are kind of pretty quick to interact with students, but that, you know, kind of, that everybody can see, right, everybody in the course can take advantage of So specifically, those things for me are using accolades, right, you can put an accolade to recognize an individual student, and it does that. But then every other student in the community also sees the accolade and says, Okay, this is something the instructor wants me to look at, and sort of model my own content creation or discussions after, right. So I think a lot of times, we just see instructors, trying to use those more scalable, and fast ways of interacting with students that everybody can see. And they're able to recreate a lot of the same experience.

Lisa Finkelstein 32:41
I actually have not used accolades at all. And I think that and I know, that's an option to you, I always kind of felt like, if I do this for one person is or other people gonna be upset or like, what if I don't see something that should have deserved that, and I've just like been in a little nervous about, but now that you're talking about it, maybe I won't, but I do try to like emoji people a lot. And I know, like, if they that that might get seen a little bit more that I tried to do that with a lot of people, but I'll try to write a comment to something that that I think was particularly so I think I use my comments on certain kinds of comments, sort of as an accolade. And to allow that to kind of pop up into to express why I thought it was interesting or something like that. So it's same idea, but I just haven't used that I've just been a little trigger shy to use.

Brian Verdine 33:32
I actually hear that concern from a lot of instructors. So I guess maybe I should just take a second to kind of speak on how we think about that. Right. So, um, when I would generally say about accolades is, I think they are, they do have a pretty important impact on sort of letting students know what they're supposed to be doing and, and really what they can model their behavior after. So I think there are some pretty good benefits to using them. But the way that I would think about it is just set the expectation with students and for lack of a better way of saying, I don't say set it low, but say, you know, I am only going to give out these accolades to, you know, to content that I, I think is really exceptional. And, you know, I don't want you to think they're expected or anything like that. It's kind of a bonus. Right. And I think it's a good way to frame it, I also think is a good way to think about using them. So, you know, we see some instructors that, you know, put accolades on 50% of the posts, and they sort of lose any of their magic if you use them that much. So I definitely recommend the the commenting a lot and thinking of that as an accolade kind of thing as well, but accolades work really well, especially in those larger courses. And if you have 300 students, you can give out you know, quite a few of them before Yeah, before too many?

Lisa Finkelstein 35:03
Yeah. I'll keep it in mind. I wrote a note that I can have that I can set expectations around that at the beginning. So I'll keep that in mind.

Brian Verdine 35:14
As long as you're achieving the goal. It doesn't matter. Yeah, yeah.

Brianna Bannach 35:20
That's great! Well, you have to report out and let us know how that goes. I will, for sure. Awesome! Well, if you're curious more about MOOCs, feel free to check out the ebook that has been dropped in the chat earlier, that shares a little bit more about the usecase in there. But actually talking about the book, I'd love to discuss a couple of the statistics that we had in there and get some of Brian's insights. So the first one that I want to talk about, and Lisa, feel free to share any thoughts you have around this, too, is that when we did our fall survey last year, we found that 94.5% of instructors said that Yellowdig engage their students more in course material than in traditional discussion boards. Brian, can you elaborate on why this is important? And what it means? And Lisa, also feel free to jump in as well.

Brian Verdine 36:07
Yeah, so I mean, that specific question, I think, was focused around, you know, students engaging with material, anybody that's an instructor knows that, getting students to actually consume the information and think about it and take the time to actually digest it is a giant challenge, especially with all of the competition that we have in the world for, for students attention. Yellowdig is competing with things like, you know, Twitter, Facebook, tick tock for eyeballs and attention, Netflix, I could go on forever, right. But all of those things, you know, as an instructor, we know it's important for them to be in contact with the material. And so I think it's really promising that that many more instructors thought that Yellowdig was able to deliver that. And I would say, I think the the biggest reason, or the biggest change, I think we see as people adopt more and more of Yellowdig best practices and think about Yellowdig, as a community versus just a discussion board, where they're answering questions that the instructor gives out, is that students actually consume a lot more of information. So one thing that we do track in the platform is post views. If you have a post on your, on your screen for more than four seconds, it'll mark it as viewed in our system. There's a little icon on the posts, we can see that in, you know, in in communities and things that look like communities, rather than discussion boards, students are actually consuming a lot more of the information. So they're coming back more often, they're reading more, and there's they might still only be participating by posting and commenting the same amount, but they are consuming much more of what's posted there, clicking the hyperlink, etc, etc. So I think that's one reason that it's important. As far as sort of how you can think about managing Yellowdig. And what to focus on, quite frankly, as far as student outcomes, it is way more important that they come to Yellowdig. And read what's there than it is that a post. And just an example I always give is that my my mother in law has been on Facebook for five years, I think she's made like one post, and the entire time, but I often forget that she can read everything that I am writing. And she just sort of asked me a question about something that I did on the weekend. I was like, How did you even know about that? Right? Well, it's because she was reading. Yeah, reading these posts. So

Lisa Finkelstein 38:49
That happens to me all the time. I'm always like, wait, what? How do you know that? I don't know what's going on with you. That's not fair. Yeah, I think that they're definitely they're engaging more in there. Like they're reading more. And I've even had a few students who have come to office hours who have like commented, like when talking to me about stuff that I've written or that they've written or conversations that they've had and that they've been reading and engaging in. So it seems like that's definitely something that they're doing. And they've reported, I mean, to kind of bring that statistic to life with just the kinds of things they say on the first week of class for this 300 Person class, they just need to make an introduction of themselves and talk a little bit why they're interested in psychology because it's kind of an introductory class, and a lot of them will just be like, this seems pretty cool. I've never done this before. This is so much better than the boring old discussion board like that over and over, like, Oh, everybody hates discussion boards, and they're like, this isn't like a discussion board. And so it just repeated, repeated repeated. This isn't like a discussion board. This is really cool. comes up all the time. And so And I really think of it more as a community than a discussion board, like the the discussion stuff is almost secondary to me, but it's there. And it's way more, they're engaging with that way more than they would on a discussion board. But that's like it, that's almost sort of secondary to how I see them just just really connecting with each other.

Brian Verdine 40:21
Yeah, that's important. We're interesting point, I think the the sort of most successful outcomes and people that are most excited about about Yellowdig are, are often kind of making that shift, meaning they're thinking about the community as more, right, they're doing other things, anything out there asking him answering questions, they are allowing some sort of off topic conversations. And I guess, um, you know, one thing I've just quickly mentioned, is that the point system does have topics that you can turn points on. So for anybody that's listening, you know, it's perfectly possible to let people talk about anything they want, that's appropriate, even if it's slightly off topic. Lisa, do you use those no point topics? Or is that something that you just allow students

Lisa Finkelstein 41:12
to allow students to get points for that, and it probably because I do think of this, like, number one is a community number two is a discussion board. So I tell them, that the only thing I'm requiring of them is that they respond to one of the post choices, and that actually, they do that by Thursday, so that not everybody is waiting till Sunday at 1158. So then there would be nothing to comment on. So I just asked them, but you know, hopefully, none of my students are watching because I have no idea if they do that. I don't track that at all. I just, it's in the syllabus that they need to do it by Thursday, but I don't you know, some of them might, and some of them might not. Yellowdig is calculating the points just for the whole entire week, but it seems like most of them or are posting by then, and getting that information up there. And so as long as most of them are doing that, I'm totally fine with the rest of the points really being about other things. But you know, it's not that, like, they often will ask class related questions. So they're not using all of like, their extra 700 points just to talk about Netflix and dogs and stuff, like, but there's also one of my TA started topic about tattoos. So now, we have a bunch of pictures of some really interesting tattoos. Luckily, no, nothing that we shouldn't be looking at. And then I'm thinking is like, if someone's parents look at this, and they're gonna be like my students, professors encouraging them to get tattooed. But it just like, they got really into it. They wanted to talk about this. And so that's all fine. But a lot of them are asking, like, what do you guys want to do when you're at a school? And they're talking about psychology? Or, you know, what classes have people taken? And has anybody gone to the students like Association meeting? Or I'm thinking of doing that, like the, you know, is this a good idea? And So has anyone join this club? So they are talking about university related things, career related things? So there, I don't want to kind of police in any way, like what's worthy of points and not worthy points, as long as they're doing what they're supposed to? Or as long as they think that I'm watching them do what they're supposed to do in terms of talking about the prompt, it seems like most people are unknown with that.

Brian Verdine 43:17
Yeah, it seems. If I could summarize, it seems like one of the things that you'd have a little bit more of a focus on is sort of the overall community feel, and what's happening in a general sense of the community. And then using what you're seeing to, you know, drill down into specific students, I think sometimes people approach discussion boards, or specifically Yellowdig, with a mindset sort of towards like monitoring every single student, but they're not paying that much attention to what that might be doing, or whether instructions might be doing to the full experience. And, frankly, in order to get students discussing and having back and forth conversations about course material, you'd have to get them to come there often. And to find it interesting and engaging. And, and so I think, you know, a lot of times, sort of focusing on what is the overall feel of the community first, is a great way to avoid the other problems you, you know, people are worrying or worried about sometimes. And, you know, we're for your students that are earning a few points, maybe on topics that feel a little off topic, but part of the important thing is that they're there to start with and experiencing those, you know, everything that's available. And if the general level of that is high, then you get a good educational experience. ,

Lisa Finkelstein 44:54
Yeah, I agree totally. Another thing, I wanted to say just in case I don't have a chance to To say this later, and I think it's one of the most important things that has struck me about Yellowdig is how kind they are to each other, like, so nice and supportive. And I like observing students in person in person classes, where they come in, and they're just looking down, and they're not really talking to each other. And that always like, kind of breaks my heart a little like, you're in college, talk to me, you know, and then I, you can't, you know, force that so much, you can try to talk to people and get them talking. But here, so I think I'm making an assumption. So this is a social psychologist to me, when I see people just kind of sit there not talking to each other, I assume that they're not very nice, because they're not interacting with each other. And then when I see them interacting together, so kindly and supportively with each other, it has literally, I'm a mosh ball, but it is literally brought me to tears on more than one occasion, where I'm reading what they're saying to each other, like, so people will express that they're nervous about a test, or they're having some anxiety or they're having, you know, and I definitely do monitor to see if there's anybody I should check in on and then, you know, recommend to counseling and things like that, but, but just general stress that students have. But as soon as somebody posts like that, there are so many people, like, you've got this, it's gonna be okay, here's what I've tried, we can do this together. And like just I'll just sit here staring at my computer and start crying because they're such nice people. And I might not have known that if I hadn't seen how they're, they're interacting with each other. And so that has just kind of opened my eyes to just the humanity of the students that I interact with, and how much people are being supportive. And we see so many nasty things online and trolls. And that has never been a troll like people are the opposite of that they've just been so kind to each other. And a lot of students have expressed at the end of the semester, like how they're going to miss everybody. And they thank people for having helped get them through a rough semester. And it's just, it's pretty magical how that happened. So I wanted to make sure everybody kind of realized that, because that's really the best part to me.

Brianna Bannach 47:10
That's awesome. That's one of my favorite things about Yellowdig is it's not just a community for classes, it's a community for like the whole person. And amazing, we have two technical questions that from the audience that I really want to make sure we get to. And then if we have time, we can jump back into a couple more questions that I have prepared. But the first one is having never used the Yellowdig platform before, they are curious about scoring, and also how topics carry forward from unit to unit. Either of you feel free to jump in and share your thoughts.

Brian Verdine 47:40
For the for the point system, or data about a student there, there are a ton of different reports in the platform, both about how they earn their points with a full log of every activity that they made, along with various sort, of course level reports where you could download or work with, I don't know how many variables, something like 70 variables around different things that students have done. Like, for example, one of the data points that we track is whether a student is getting a lot of posts that nobody is responding to. So we count those in the platform. And it will help you detect if you know a student was kind of phoning it in maybe or, or maybe they're posting really good stuff, but they're just creating a wall attacks or something like they just don't understand how to interact on social media, or social media like things. So students are kind of just ignoring their their wall of text or something you can you can find interesting ways to intervene from from that data. And I think it's, you know, overall, there's quite a bit least I don't know if there are any of those functions that you specifically use where you'd want to talk about,

Lisa Finkelstein 48:54
Yeah, there's so many different functions. If I like dug in there and tried to do that with 300 people, I would never get any other work done. So and I'm tempted because being a data nerd, I want to know what's going on. But it helps me to know that that stuff is there. It I have dug into some different reports when students at the beginning of the semester when they're still getting used to it, and they're like, I thought I earned all my points, but then my score is that like, so just in case anybody out there isn't familiar with the idea that it scores itself. So I'm not grading anything, and which is delightful, because I don't know how I would do that. So it's like, I set a point system that I'm comfortable with and at the points just go right into my blue eye. We use Blackboard as our class management system, it just goes right into Blackboard. So I don't have to do any grading but I can look at those reports. And I can show them like I've taken screenshots and sent them I'm like, This is what you did I have it and then they're always kind of like, oh, you know exactly what you know what I've done. And so sometimes they're just misunderstanding the point system at the beginning. There is sometimes a little bit of ramping up at the beginning especially with that 300 Person class so even if 10% of If people are confused, that's 30 people sending me emails that they're like, Wait, what is this? Yellowdig? How do I get in? I don't understand. I had one student who was like my parents, she was a first year student, my parents don't let me use social media. So this is the first time I've ever seen it. I'm like, Oh, God, here comes the parents again after me. So, and she was thrilled, she's like, Well, I gotta do this for class. And so, um, so sometimes people will have just struggled to figure out like, where everything is. And then we make like, the TA make a little video, like why like, here's where you hit Create, here's how you can filter. So you can filter by topic. So if it's just you want to just see module seven that we're on this week, you can filter that. So I use those kinds of things. But I like to know that the reports are there. And then there it is, there is a possibility to go in and like add points. So for example, I've had some students that had a rough start for very valid reasons. And they did not do their Yellowdig at the very beginning of this semester. And I told him, okay, like going forward, if I see you doing it and keeping it up every week, I'll go in at the end and, and like, give you points for what you missed, so that you're not going to miss anything, like we couldn't have a clean slate going forward. But if you're not doing it, I'm not going to do that. And I've done that before. And that's helped out. So some students just like really didn't understand it. And they were afraid to ask, and then as soon as they asked him like, Okay, now you get it. So, um, so I did want to really could tell the story about yesterday. So I had, I was telling everybody here before the call, so I had a student come in who was having trouble. We're in the middle of the semester, and she has been having a lot of personal issues. And I talked to her, I said, Come Come meet with me. And so she wanted me to just kind of walk her through the class. Like she really didn't understand asynchronous. She didn't know what she was supposed to be doing. Like, let's do it. Let's, you know, from here on out, and we walked through it. I'm like, Have you been using the Yellowdig? I didn't check out how to time and she's like, No, she was like, so shy about it, just like no. And I'm like, Okay, let's, let's look at it. And I went in there. And I gave her some examples. And she's looking. And then I was like, here's how you write a post. Here's how you comment, just looking. And then I was like about the post, I just happened to pull up with something that was about. I think it was about going to a football game for the first time. Like it's always something about campus, but it wasn't about class. And I'm like, you see how this is not about this week's topic. It's about something else. Because look over here and all these other topics, you only need to create a post on on prompts, at least at least one post comment on a few. And then you can check these out. And so I pulled up the pets, and her eyes lit up like she was like, Oh, wow. And like we started scrolling through the puppies in the kitties. And we were just like, we started bonding when we were looking at these animals, and she just like, relax so much. And she's like, Wow, that's so cool. I have a dog at home. I'm gonna post about that. And so, and I also explained to her because she is struggling a little I'm like people here are so nice. And I think she was like, a little intimidated that people would not be nice. And I was like people are very nice and supportive. And I told her some stories about things I've seen. And just like the body language, I've just relaxing and her looking so excited to get involved in this and seeing that she could do it was just amazing. So this just happened yesterday. So I was I was like, Well, I gotta tell the story because it was just just to see her her whole body just kind of relax and change when she saw what this was all about. And her looking excited to get involved in it. It just like, it's very heartwarming.

Brianna Bannach 53:24
I love that. That makes me so happy. Um, I think that you guys also kind of covered the next question, which was, is there any way a professor to review logging a student logging into Yellowdig are your participation? So I think I'm going to skip that unless you guys have anything big to add there.

Lisa Finkelstein 53:42
Yeah, you can do you can check everything pretty much that they do add any time.

Brianna Bannach 53:47
Perfect. One thing that I wanted to talk about real quick is that in our ebook, you can check out we have a lot of statistics highlighted in there, but one that we didn't highlight is called the NPS. And that's something that Brian's team has been working to collect. Brian, do you want to explain a little bit around what that is? If no one's heard of it? And like, how, how that's been going?

Brian Verdine 54:06
Yeah, so um, NPS stands for a Net Promoter Score. And it's something that's often used in sort of industry or, or business to see how, or whether you know, somebody that's using a product would would recommend it to a friend or a colleague. And typically, it's of the form, you know, would you recommend Yellowdig for use and other classes at your school? Or would you recommend this to, you know, a friend in your department or something? So we asked whether or not students and instructors in the platform would recommend yell at each other to be used for other course classes and it's on a zero to 10 scale. And we've been using those we're collecting those to get a good sense of what things you know, in spite of Whatever other data we might have, that shows that students are going back to the platform often or whatever, to, to really explore what things might change their sort of sentiment about Yellowdig. And I think, Lisa, a lot of times, the things that aren't captured by the sort of behavioral data are these sort of emotional responses to things. And so one other piece of it is we let them read it, and then give a reason for the reading. And so we've been learning also a lot about you know, what things people specifically are saying, most often students are talking about connections, with the community with other students, or with the instructor. And one interesting thing that we see is, and I find really heartwarming, I guess, is, a lot of the students will actually mention their instructor by name. You know, as far as you know, I like yesterday, because the instructor, you know, XY and Z, you know, can help me here or whatever. So that's, that's one, you know, sort of bit of feedback we've been getting from that. But eventually, we want to feed that data into, you know, alongside our other data, and be able to do a little bit more sophisticated analysis of, of, of what things instructors are doing in order to get sort of the best MPs outcome. But obviously, we think it's important that people liked the platform and want other people to use it. So that's one of the one of the scores we've started tracking.

Lisa Finkelstein 56:37
That's cool.

Brianna Bannach 56:39
Great, thank you so much, Brian! I'm gonna pull up some webinars in a minute, just to let you know that they're coming up if you'd like to join. But any closing thoughts before I do that Brian, or Lisa.

Lisa Finkelstein 56:51
I'll just like, I think it's probably come across pretty clear that I definitely recommend Yellowdig. And I can't emphasize enough how much it's really fun for me as well. So this isn't like another thing on my to do list that you just have to get through, it's actually been such an enjoyable part of the teaching experience. For me, I really have had so much positive feedback from the students. So I think it's worth a shot. I don't know what would happen if everybody did it. And so they had to have a Yellowdig community for every class, that might get to be a little bit of overkill. But I really think that they're enjoying it. I know, some of them have Yellowdig for a few different classes. And they're not complaining about that. But I could imagine that there's a place where, where it could get to be a lot if you had so many communities but but I'm going to continue to do it in all my undergrad classes, including now, the in person ones, I think it's helping and I just want peace, I think people should try it out. And I definitely think if they try it out, you should try it out with the goal of participating as a fellow human with your students and kind of see what happens with that, because I think you'll really enjoy it. And thank you for having me. Appreciate it.

Brianna Bannach 58:09
Amazing, thank you so much! Okay, since we only have a couple minutes left, I wanted to let you know that we have been doing a series called The Connected education 3.0 connecting the learning experience with our founder and CEO, Sonic Roy, you can see a couple of the upcoming panelists that will be on there. They're all amazing leaders in education. So definitely recommend stopping by if you're not already signed up for that. You can scan there, I'll give you a second to scan if you're interested. But I believe it's also dropped in the chat. And then I know we had some people who are new to Yellowdig. So definitely recommend you stopping by our demo webinar on October 11. That's our next one. If you can't make it, you can always go to and request a demo there at your own convenience. And we'd love to give you a tour of the platform. And then I know I saw some familiar names. So if you are a Yellowdig user, please, we encourage you highly to sign up for level-up with Yellowdig. So someone from Brian's team, maybe even Brian will be joining and talking about different things that are important to using Yellowdig. Well, each session will have its own topic at but then after the topic is discussed. It'll be open to any questions that you have to use Yellowdig better. So we really recommend that you stopped by that and come to every single one that you can make it to so that you can use Yellowdig to your best of your ability. Brian, anything to add?

Brian Verdine 59:33
No, just that yeah, we are going to make all all of the sessions with a little bit different on a focus. And so in this specific instance, I would say hopefully that is worthwhile to come to all of them. First, I would think that but hopefully we can help you get a few tips that will help you enjoy more and help your students learn better as well.

Brianna Bannach 1:00:03
Great! Thank you so much! Thank you so much Brian and Lisa for joining today. It was great getting to chat with you and thank you everyone for taking time out of your day to attend this webinar. And if you like this, feel free to check our events page for more webinars and have a great rest of your Wednesday!

Lisa Finkelstein 1:00:19
Thank you. Thanks, everybody. Thanks, Brianna.

Brianna Bannach 1:00:23
Safe travels Lisa.

Lisa Finkelstein 1:00:24
Thank you!

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